WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite - UBITENNIS
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WTA Finals Preview: National Pride And No.1 Ranking At Stake For The Women’s Elite

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The 2017 WTA Finals eight players (zimbio.com)

For the fourth consecutive year the best players in the world will descend upon Singapore to play in the season-ending WTA Finals.

 

The eight highest scoring players on the tour this season will grace their presence in the round-robin tournament, which has a prize money pool of $7 million. Those eight have been split into two groups, called red and white. The top two players in each group will then progress to the semifinals.

Unlike previous years, seven out of the eight participants have the ability to end 2017 as world No.1. France’s Caroline Garcia is the only exception. Furthermore, five players are aiming to be the first from their country to win the tournament. The five is made up of Simona Halep (Romania), Garbine Muguruza (Spain), Elina Svitolina (Ukraine), Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark) and Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia).

The Red Group

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Current world No.1 Simona Halep will headline the red group. Until the past month, 2017 has been a case of always the bridesmaid and never the bride for the Romanian. Her consistency on the tour, illustrated by a win-loss of 46-15, has brought her close to the top spot on numerous occasions. At the French Open, she lead Ostapenko by a set and a break in the final before being denied her first grand slam and the No.1 ranking. It was a trend that continued to occur until she struck gold in Beijing in a somewhat fitting fashion. Getting revenge against Ostapenko to reach the final.

“Inside I can say that something has changed. I’m very happy about what I did. But outside is just normal, normal things. Nothing changes. It’s just I have to work harder to keep that (smiling). But I’m here just to enjoy the moment and we’ll see what is going to happen.” Halep told reporters about her rise to No.1.
“The dream came true. It is just the best feeling that I ever had in my tennis career. I’m just enjoying the moment. I cannot describe in words what I feel, but it’s a good feeling. I’m happy when I’m going to the courts now.”

Halep has reached five finals of the tour this season with her sole victory occurring in May when she defended her title at the Madrid Open.

Aiming to derail the top seed are three players that have previously scored wins over her at some point in their careers. Elina Svitolina has won more singles trophies (five so far) on the WTA Tour than anybody else this season, including two Premier 5 tournaments. She also owns the record of the longest streak on the tour this season with 15 consecutive wins. Against Halep, she has already defeated her twice this year.

“Of course I have lots of confidence. I mean, I won five tournaments this year. It was an amazing year for me. Lots of good memories. Hopefully it will continue in this tournament, as well. I’m looking forward to each challenge, you know, and it’s been an amazing year with so many good things.” Said Svitolina.
“Of course there have been some very disappointing losses, as well. For me, just the road to the top is never straight. It’s always with some curves (smiling).”

Making her fifth appearance, Caroline Wozniacki is eager to go deep in a tournament once again. The Dane had to settle for runner-up six consecutive times this season before prevailing at the Pan Pacific Open to win her 26th tour title. Despite being a former grand slam finalist and world No.1, 2017 is the first year she has managed to score 10 or more wins over top-10 players. Overall, she has won 55 matches this season, more than any other player in the tournament.

Hoping to capitalise on her previous WTA Finals experience, Wozniacki is aiming to reach the semifinal stage for the fourth time.

“”It’s a little bit of a different surface. I think if the balls hit through, they kind of skid through the court. If there is a bit more spin on it, the ball stops and it’s very slow. But I have played well here before, and I’m just excited for the challenge.” Wozniacki commented on the playing surface in Singapore.

Completing the group is 8th seed Garcia, who is one out of three players making their debut in the event. She secured her place with the help of a dream run in China. The 24-year-old is currently on a 11-match winning streak after claiming back-to-back titles in Wuhan and Beijing. In Beijing, she disposed of both Svitolina and Halep. Underlining her threat to the group. Earlier this year Garcia reached her first major quarter-final at the French Open before going out to Karolina Plisklova.

“I think it’s a great challenge for me. To improve, to learn a lot of things, to get experience to be ready for next year. Halep, Svitolina, Wozniacki are the best we can do in this kind of styles, and they will have to make me work from the baseline, try to be very aggressive, play with my shots. I can’t ask for a better match to play, for sure.” – Garcia.

Head-to-head

Halep Wozniacki Svitolina Garcia
Halep 2-3 2-2 2-1
Wozniacki 3-2 0-3 2-0
Svitolina 2-2 3-0 1-1
Garcia 1-2 0-2 1-1

The White Group

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A mixture of old and new features in the quartet. Wimbledon champion Garbine Muguruza is the highest ranked player in the group. The Spaniard enjoyed a brief four-week spell as world No.1 before being dethroned. She heads into the draw winning 46 out of 65 matches played this season. On the tour, she clinched the Cincinnati Open title with a 6-0, 6-1, thrashing against Halep. Muguruza has also been named the WTA ‘s player of the year.

“At the beginning of the year I had a few injuries and I was a little bit sad because I felt like I worked so hard in the preseason I couldn’t really show it on the court.” Explained Muguruza.
“I didn’t drop my spirit. In the clay season, I was really motivated, and I just cleaned that and started strong at Wimbledon, thinking that my time was gonna come. After that, everything went well. And what I like the most, it’s like after winning a Grand Slam I could manage to maintain that level for a couple more tournaments and not just lose.”

Pliskova will make her second consecutive appearance in Singapore after crashing out in the round robin stages last year. Known for her fierce serve, she has won a trio of premier titles in 2017 (two on a hard-court and one on grass). So far she has defeated four top-10 players this season, including Muguruza on two occasions. The Czech has also managed to reach the quarter-finals or better at three out of the four majors. Her best season performance at the grand slams to date.

“I think my group [has] more aggressive-style players in the group and the other one is more defending. I just like to play better these players. I played all of them a few times. It’s not that I didn’t lose to them, but it’s just like I like better their style of the game.”

At the age of 20, Ostapenko is the youngest player to debut at the WTA Finals since Wozniacki back in 2010. She rose to the limelight following her fairytale run at the French Open. At Roland Garros, where she was unseeded, Ostapenko knocked out four seeded players to claim her first title of any sort. More recently, she triumphed at Korea Open. Winning 42 matches this season, the Latvian has the second-lowest amount of tour wins in the entire draw.

Finally, Venus Williams continues to prove the age is irrelevant. The 37-year-old made her finals debut back in 1999. Overall, she has played in the tournament four times, winning it in 2008. A lot has changed since then, but the American has managed to fight her way back to the top.

“Just the depth in the game. The competition is so much greater. It’s a beautiful change, in fact.” She reflected about the changes in the women’s game.

Despite winning no titles and only 34 matches in 2017, it has hard to rule out her chances. Twice this year, Williams has reached the final of a major. At the Australian Open she fell to sister Serena and then succumbed to Muguruza in Wimbledon. In the premier events, her best run was a semifinal appearence in Miami.

“They’re all pretty special,” Williams reflected about her appearances at the year-end event. “It’s the end of the year. Only Top 8 get here. It’s definitely something well earned.”

Williams is the third oldest player to qualify for the tour finals after 39-year-old Billie Jean King in 1983, and a 38-year-old Martina Navratilova in 1994.

Head-to-head

Muguruza Pliskova Ostapenko Williams
Muguruza 2-6 2-1 2-3
Pliskova 6-2 2-0 1-1
Ostapenko 1-2 0-2 0-1
Williams 3-2 1-1 1-0

Schedule of play

Date Session Day/Night Start of Session
Sunday
22 October
1 Night 5:00pm – Singles
NB 7.30pm – Singles
Monday
23 October
2 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Tuesday
24 October
3 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Wednesday
25 October
4 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Singles
Thursday
26 October
5 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
6 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Friday
27 October
7 Day 1:30pm – Doubles
NB 4:00pm – Singles
8 Night 7:30pm – Singles
FB – Doubles
Saturday
28 October
9 Day 1:30pm – Doubles Semi Final
NB 4:00pm – Singles Semi Final
10 Night 7:30pm – Singles Semi Final
FB – Doubles Semi Final
Sunday
29 October
11 Night 4:00pm – Doubles Final
NB 7:30pm – Singles Final

NOTE: Time according to Singapore timezone (GMT+8)

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Jannik Sinner: “Rafa Nadal is superior in his head and knows exactly what to do and when to do it”

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Jannik Sinner made a major breakthrough season in 2020 winning his maiden ATP title in Sofia becoming and reached his first Grand Slam quarter finals at Roland Garros in his debut at this tournament at the age of 19. He has become the youngest player to win an ATP Tour title. 

 

“After the final in Sofia I felt emotional. I am human, but I feel the emotions inside me. I was very happy but I know that I have to work very hard. Before the victory ceremony I was a bit angry as I was still trying to understand why I had lost the second set. It was a strange season. I would have liked to play more matches and learn more about the life on the Tour and how to train with the biggest players on the circuit. I am now feeling more comfortable than last year”, said Sinner.

The Italian player is the first debutant beat Alexander Zverev en route to reaching the Roland Garros quarter final since Rafael Nadal achieved this feat in 2005 en route to his first French Open title. 

He lost to Rafael Nadal in the quarter finals in Paris after playing at great level in the first two sets. En route to the quarter final in Paris Sinner beat David Goffin, Benjamin Bonzi, Federico Coria and Alexander Zverev. 

“Rafael Nadal is superior in his head. He pulls very hard but above all he understands the decisive moments. He knows exactly what to do and when to do it. It’s really something else a tennis player. What I am missing to get there ? Well, the blows and the body, as well as the body. Let’s say a little bit of everything. The doctor said I still have to finish growing and developing. The truth is that I have to improve myself in every aspect, both physically and mentally. It takes time to get there”, said Sinner in an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. 

Sinner was disappointed about Zverev’s comments after their match at Roland Garros. 

“I respect Zverev a lot because he has got more experience on the circuit, and he is great player. However, I do not respect his statements after his defeat to me at Roland Garros. He contradicted himself a lot. He said he had fever, but in the third and fourth sets, he ran more than me”, commented Sinner. 

Sinner became the youngest quarter finalist at a Grand Slam tournament since Bernard Tomic at Wimbledon 2011 and at Roland Garros since Novak Djokovic in 2006. The player coached by Riccardo Piatti earned the biggest win in his career when he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas en route to his his maiden third round at Masters 1000 level in Rome.

Jannik has reached his career best ranking at world number 37. 

In the interview Sinner talked about his passions outside tennis.  

“I like to go karting and play football every now and then. I cheer on AC Milan because my first roommate was an AC Milan fan and he also and he also made me passionate as the days went by. In general I also follow the chairs on Netflix and I believe that in Australia. ”, said Sinner. 

Sinner talked about his relationship with Riccardo Piatti. 

“Riccardo is my coach, but also a good friend. We talked about tennis all the time. During the lockdown we watched a lot of past tennis matches together”. 

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ATP Finals Day 8 Preview: Championship Sunday

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Dominic Thiem earned his 300th career victory yesterday in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

Today either Dominic Thiem or Daniil Medvedev will win this event for the first time.

 

A year ago, Dominic Thiem was just a few points from winning this tournament, going down in defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in a third set tiebreak of the championship match.  Thiem went on to reach his third Major final at January’s Australian Open, but couldn’t hold on to a two-sets-to-one-lead.  At the next Slam, he would finally win his first Major title, in a dramatic, nerve-wracking five-set final against Sascha Zverev.  For the second consecutive year, he’s reached the championship match of this event after beating two of “The Big Three.”  Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal in a high-quality affair during round-robin play, and overcame Novak Djokovic in yesterday’s semifinals despite blowing four match points in the second set tiebreak, and despite going down 0-4 in the final set tiebreak.

A year ago, Daniil Medvedev came into this event on a 29-4 run, a stretch that saw him win three titles and reach six consecutive finals.  But the fatigued Russian went 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  In this abbreviated 2020 season, he did not advance to a tournament final until just two weeks ago, when he won first title in over a year at the Paris Masters.  Now he’s on a nine-match winning streak, having gone undefeated in the round-robin stage.  And just yesterday, he earned his first victory over Rafael Nadal in comeback fashion, after Nadal served for the match in the second set.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Daniil Medvedev (4)

Thiem is 3-1 against Medvedev overall, 2-1 on hard courts, and 1-0 indoors.  Their first meeting was two years ago in Daniil’s home country, where Dominic survived 7-6 in the third.  Last summer in Canada, Medvedev easily prevailed, losing only four games.  And in this year’s US Open semifinals, Dominic was victorious in straight sets.  Neither man will be fully fresh today, coming off semifinal matches just 24 hours ago against the top two players in the world, each of which approached three hours in length.  Thiem’s encounter with Djokovic seemed slightly more draining, both physically and emotionally. 

When they met two months ago in New York, Medvedev got off to a terrible start, losing the first set 6-2.  He struck almost twice as many errors as winners, winning only 65% of first serve points and a dismal 25% on his second serve.  But this week he’s served excellently, averaging 79% of first serve points won.  And some easy service games have enabled Daniil to apply more pressure to his opponents’ serve.  The result has been an average of over three breaks per match, Comparatively, Thiem has broken his opponent’s serve only once per match.  But an underrated aspect of the Austrian’s game is his ability to protect his own serve.  Outside of his dead rubber against Andrey Rublev, Dominic has only been broken two times in three matches.  And that includes clashes with two of the sport’s all-time great returners: Nadal and Djokovic. 

Thiem should be slightly favored based on their head-to-head, as well as his considerable edge in experience.  Regardless of the winner, let’s hope these two men provide us with an extended, enthralling encounter.  With the Australian tennis summer in doubt, it may be quite awhile before we see professional tennis of this caliber.

Doubles on Day 8:

In the doubles championship, it’s Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  Yesterday in the semifinals, Melzer and Roger-Vasselin came back from 1-7 down in the match tiebreak and saved a match point to advance.  Koolhof and Mektic prevailed on Saturday in straight sets.

Full order of play is here.

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ATP Finals Day 6 Preview: Novak Djokovic and Sascha Zverev Play for the Final Qualifying Spot

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Novak Djokovic hasn't won this event since 2015 (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

The winner will join Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, and Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s semifinals.

 

Djokovic is a five-time champion of this event, yet is looking to avoid failing to advance out of the round-robin stage for the second straight year.  Zverev was the champion here two years ago, and is vying for his third consecutive semifinal.  Friday’s other singles match has no implications on the semifinals, as Daniil Medvedev has already advanced, while Diego Schwartzman cannot.

Novak Djokovic (1) vs. Sascha Zverev (5)

Zverev has a chance today to achieve what very few top players have: an even or better head-to-head record against Novak Djokovic.  Sascha is currently 2-3 against Novak, and 1-2 on hard courts.  They played twice at this event in 2018, with Djokovic easily prevailing in the round-robin stage, and Zverev avenging that loss a few days later in the final to win the biggest title of his career.  Their most recent encounter came last year at Roland Garros, with Novak winning in straight sets.  Notably, all five of their matches have been straight-set encounters, with none of the 11 sets even reaching a tiebreak.  So based on their history, grabbing the first set today will be extremely crucial.  Djokovic appeared unwilling to play long rallies on Wednesday against Medvedev, and admitted during his post-match press conference that he wasn’t feeling 100%.  Zverev hasn’t played his best this week either, but was able to tough out a three-set victory over Schwartzman two days ago to keep his advancement hopes alive.  If Djokovic is feeling fresher today, his 40-4 record on the year makes him a clear favorite.  If not, and if Zverev can limit his double faults, Sascha’s indoor hard court prowess makes him fully capable of eliminating the world No.1 from this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (4) vs. Diego Schwartzman (8)

On Thursday, having already qualified for the semifinals, Dominic Thiem seemed rather uninterested in supplying resistance to Andrey Rublev.  In today’s dead rubber, which comes just 24 hours prior to the semifinals, will Medvedev fight to defeat Schwartzman?  Daniil knows he has an appointment on Saturday with Rafael Nadal, which he can safely assume will be a grueling task.  So I’m sure he’ll be looking to avoid an extended battle today.  And Schwartzman will be keen to not go 0-3 in his ATP Finals debut.  Medvedev is 4-0 against the Argentine, having won eight of nine sets played, which includes a straight-set win just two weeks ago at the Paris Masters.  Under normal circumstances, Daniil would be a strong favorite. But we’ll see how motivated the Russian is today, especially if Diego gains an early advantage.  These two men have a contentious history, going back to their intense battle in January at the ATP Cup where Schwartzman felt Medvedev was taunting him.  Diego would surely enjoy gaining his first win against Daniil.  And despite their lopsided head-to-head, that’s entirely plausible.

Doubles Matches on Day 6:

Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares (1) vs. John Peers and Michael Venus (6).  The winning team will secure the last remaining semifinal birth.

Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos (4) vs. Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (7).  This is a dead rubber, as Granollers and Zeballos have already advanced, while Melzer and Roger-Vasselin have been eliminated.

Full order of play is here.

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